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Hillary And The Ghost Of Albright

Some interesting context when envisioning Hillary at State. She is extremely close to her husband's last Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. Many reliable accounts ID her as the person who convinced her husband to name Albright to the job in 1997. In 1996 the Times had a very entertaining account of how the two bonded on a  trip to Prague:

Under a warm late-afternoon sun, two middle-aged American women in smart pants suits slip out of their Prague hotel and stroll across Old Town Square. Trailed at a discreet distance by Secret Service agents, they study the clock on the 15th-century Town Hall, do some window shopping and walk into Wenceslas Square, where a protest rally in 1989 sparked the country's Velvet Revolution and the fall of Communism. They talk about their children, the professors they had at Wellesley College, walking, eating and vitamins. Madeleine Korbel Albright and Hillary Rodham Clinton are clearly having a good time.

It is four days of fun and diplomacy, captured in a few snapshots: Albright, the Czech-born American delegate to the United Nations, showing off the yellow house in which she once lived . . . the two women laughing uncontrollably when their umbrellas turn inside out in a driving rainstorm . . . sitting in a Prague cafe, editing their talking points over dumplings and cabbage for meetings in Slovakia the next day . . . singing ''Good King Wenceslas'' with a dear friend, President Vaclav Havel, as their Chevrolet Suburban pulls into Wenceslas Square.

Why is Albright playing tour guide in Prague for the First Lady? ''Mostly because it's friendship,'' says Albright. ''And it just seemed like a natural thing to do.''

The other answer, of course, is that Albright was auditioning to be Secretary of State. After she took the job, she and Hillary remained extremely close, something I touched upon in TNR last year:

The women met regularly, often with their top aides, for frank conversations about policy and politics in Albright's State Department dining room. In her memoir, Madam Secretary, Albright describes the relationship as an "unprecedented partnership. " "I was once asked whether it was appropriate for the two of us to work together so closely," Albright writes. "I agreed that it was a departure from tradition," but she saw no problem with the first lady having a hand on the ship of state. 

The point here is that Hillary's got a close longtime friend who served for years in the job she's about to take, someone she spoke with regularly while she held the job, and who still advises her today. So she's had at least some exposure to what life at Foggy Bottom is about. (It's a safe bet she's been talking a lot with Albright this past week.) 

It's also a reminder of what sort of person has helped to shape Hillary's foreign policy worldview. One more passage from my piece:

Albright's relatives had fled both Hitler and Stalin, instilling in her a belief that dictators must be challenged. "My mindset is Munich," she once said. "Most of my generation's is Vietnam." It may have been such thinking that once led Albright to query a stunned Colin Powell, "What's the point of having this superb military you're always talking about if we can't use it?"

--Michael Crowley